June 2005

Wed Jun 01 20:21:43 PDT 2005

And Yet More Drug War Stupidity

As I predicted last year the restrictions on sale of Sudafed continue to progress to an outright ban. And although:

Gel caps and liquid products containing pseudoephedrine, which are harder for illegal drug labs to convert to meth, would not be covered by the ban.
Just you wait. Necessity is the mother of invention. Meth cooks will figure out a way to utilize the liquid pseudoephedrine.

I predict that sooner rather than later, legislators will realize in horror that banning solid tablets didn't end the meth epidemic and they'll conclude that all pseudoephedrine must be banned.

Not that it'll end the meth epidemic, or anything. It'll just put the small local labs out of business and convert the drugs business here to selling meth imported from bigger labs in California and Mexico.

Also, the gel in gel caps is made from gelatin. Which means that I'll soon be deprived of pseudoephedrine in a convenient form that's also vegan. Well, actually, I'll just be inconvenienced: instead of being able to buy it in my neighborhood, I'll be forced to take the No. 6 bus across the Columbia and buy it in a state whose legislators haven't yet fallen for this particular brand of drug war idiocy.

Fuck you very much, lawmakers.

Fri Jun 03 08:55:08 PDT 2005

Well, That Didn't Take Long

From an article in today's Oregonian:

Oregon considers further sales restrictions after the [DEA] finds pseudoephedrine can be gleaned from liquids, not just pills.
Coming up next in the saga: outrage at how Oregon meth cooks are driving across the Columbia River to purchase their raw materials in Washington, coupled with urgent demands that the Washington Legislature do something about it.

Fri Jun 03 11:12:40 PDT 2005

Two Scans

First, something amusing:

Old Coupon
Click on the image to enlarge

I noticed the above coupon floating around the kitchen a couple weeks ago. Since it was actually for an item I buy, I decided to save it. Then I noticed the expiration date. I think it probably came in a little packet of goodies from my dentist, who's been in the business for a long time. It's in character for him to hand out old, (but still perfectly good) freebie packets. He's not one to replace perfectly good things just because they're old — two of his suites have antique wooden dental cabinets (still in use for their intended purpose) that have been in the family for generations.

Then, something mildly annoying:

No Means Maybe!
Click on the image to enlarge (warning: 600k PDF document)

Can't these Bozos realize that “no” really means no? Really cute that the default action is to start receiving all the crap I told them not to send, too.

Tue Jun 07 17:55:37 PDT 2005

Sometimes, the Old Tools Are the Best Tools

In this case, I was trying to create a file of file names separated by NUL characters from one of file names separated by newlines. A royal pain in most editors, and many of them on UNIX use the C string library, and NUL means end-of-string in C.

So I fire up trusty old TECO, and a quick j<:fs^M^J$^@$;>$$ later and the file is exactly as I want it. No problems with NUL characters, no “helpful” user interface deciding there's no way I'd want to turn a printable file into what amounts to a binary one, nothing trying again to “help” by sticking a gratuitous newline at the end when I save.

And the amazing thing is that it's been several years since I last touched TECO and I still remembered the enough of the input language (which detractors liken to line noise) to do that. Which (however ugly and cryptic appearances are) says something about the general user friendliness of an interface made up of a few elementary but powerful commands that dovetail well with each other.

Thu Jun 09 18:08:42 PDT 2005

Hypocrites for Capitalism

That's my thoughts on reading this.

Look, I understand the concept of being concerned that Portland will call all the shots. The desire not to be manipulated by outsiders is completely understandable to me.

What I don't understand is how, if they are so concerned about local autonomy, they could be totally silent while for nearly a century a group of wealthy capitalists from outside their communities have all the shots as to how PGE is run. Often from a much further distance than Portland is (such as, for example, Houston, Texas).

And whose interest in pulling a fast one on regulators in the name of getting higher profits is far more antithetical to the interests of their local ratepayers than any interests of Portland's voters is.

My skepticism about their motives and personal ethics is underscored even more by how many of those very same municipal governments sat up and barked on command when PGE requested they pass resolutions in opposition to the recent PUD initiatives (which would have provided real local control) in their counties.

Thu Jun 09 18:48:49 PDT 2005

Editors and Unicode, Revisited

Apropos this, upon reflection it seems that the reason dead keys don’t work in jEdit is that the program itself “hijacks” the option key in the name of making it available for keyboard shortcuts of its own, thus breaking the ability to use it in the standard system way.

It does seem to work with the Character Palette window on the Mac. Which is more than one can say for Gnu Emacs, which sees the eight bit on something in its input stream and decides it absolutely must be the result of someone pressing a Meta key and entering an Emacs command. (I’m sure there’s a way to disable this behavior somehow, but I haven’t figured it out yet. Emacs’s multilanguage and alternate character set support is confusing and spread amongst a group of functions and settings whose interactions don’t seem particularly well documented.)

Meanwhile, jEdit just works essentially out of the box. Only thing I had to do is change the global settings so that UTF-8 instead of MacRoman was the default input file encoding. And unlike any of the vi implementations out there, it doesn’t seem to get the least bit confused by characters represented by more than a single byte in the UTF-8 stream (which tend to really confuse the vi-type editors out there).

An added surprise was how well the different modes for editing various kinds of source language files work. I’ve only had occasion to try the PHP, shell, and HTML modes so far, but those three have pleasantly surprised me. Usually I loathe such modes; they tend to be very bossy about how to format source code, and the editor author’s preferences always differ from mine in certain crucial ways. jEdit’s seem to be mostly concerned with parsing the code and turning various syntactic elements into different pretty colors. The auto-formatting is done with a very light hand (the editor lets you modify the whitespace it inserts or removes automatically with no fuss, and it does only the minimal amount of that in the first place), and it has a pretty high correlation to the choices I’d make anyhow.

As to being polychromatic, at first I thought it was just plain silly but lived with it because at least it wasn’t trying to force its indenting style on me against my will. Then I started noticing it helping me catch silly syntax errors like missing quotes and unbalanced parentheses.

I’m still not 100% sold, though. First, it does push the Java language to the bleeding edge of where it can be pushed. Being interpreted code, it’s a little on the sluggish side. There’s also a few places where it’s apparently functioning as a bug detector for Sun’s java class libraries.

Sat Jun 11 06:40:58 PDT 2005

Much Ado about… Something?

A first reaction might be to dismiss these folks as nothing but cranks who can’t find something better to protest.

But it turns out that while English isn’t in the class of the hardest languages to become literate in (that would have to go to Chinese and other languages written in ideographs), it’s right up there in the second tier.

We marvel at how hard the Chinese struggle to teach their children such a difficult system; well, there’s ample evidence that students in English-speaking countries struggle as well. It takes British children about 2.5 times longer to learn to read and write as it does children in most of the rest of Europe (with the exception of France which also has a complicated and difficult set of spelling rules to contend with). Dyslexia and other learning disabilities are also apparently much more common in English-speaking countries.

An interesting factoid is that most people consider their own native tongue to be a particularly difficult one to learn. Such claims are, in one sense, mostly meaningless: what matters most is the difference between a second language and the learner’s native tongue. Chinese is much easier than English for a Korean speaker to learn, but English is much easier than Chinese for a Spanish speaker. And Basque, being in a family by itself, is fiendishly difficult for just about anyone to pick up.

In another sense, however, such statements make sense when applied to orthography, which we do not appear to have the inherent ability to learn that we do spoken languages when we’re children. Native speakers of English struggle more with reading, writing, and spelling than native speakers of, say, Spanish.

Not that I’m holding my breath and waiting for the situation to change anytime soon or anything. People have been tilting at this particular windmill at least since the days of Noah Webster.

I’ll close with one of the more inane apologia for difficult spelling I’ve run across:

In a democracy, a difficult alphabetic orthography is better than an ideographic one, like Chinese, because it is less complicated to teach. A difficult alphabetic orthography is better than an easy one, like Spanish, because it extends the level of difficulty between reading and writing. Reading, being less precise, is the easier of the two to learn, and English reading is probably not much more difficult to learn for English children than Spanish reading is for Spanish children. However, English spelling is a great deal more complex. This means that English-speaking children will, by comparison, assimilate more information by reading before they will have mastered spelling. In theory, it would be impossible, unlike say Spanish, for someone to conquer literacy after only a few years of education (and indoctrination), and proceed to publish convincing revolutionary and anarchic pamphlets.
Yeah, right. I guess that’s why the Jacobins are noted for their moderation and their avoidance of violent means.

Sat Jun 11 10:22:25 PDT 2005

My Mind Boggles

Upon reading the following quote in a Wikipedia article (emphasis added):

Leopold II is still a controversial figure in the Democratic Republic of Congo; in 2005 his statue was taken down just hours after it was re-erected in the capital, Kinshasa. The Congolese culture minister, Christoph Muzungu decided to reinstate the statue, arguing people should see the positive aspects of the king as well as the negative. But just hours after the six-metre (20 foot) statue was erected in the middle of a roundabout near Kinshasa’s central station, it was taken down again, without explanation.
Time for some background, since atrocities leveled by white Europeans against black Africans for some reason don’t merit the same degree of mention in schools that atrocities leveled against white Europeans or by non-white rulers do: Leopold II is one of history’s great mass murderers. His reign in the Congo puts him on a short list with such butchers as Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot.

Therefore, a Congolese government erecting a statue to Leopold in Kinshasa is approximately the equivalent of the Knesset voting to erect a statue of Hitler in Jerusalem. This is far more than the garden-variety contempt ruling classes have for the lives they of those they rule; that it could even be imagined (let alone put into place, if only for a few hours) speaks volumes as to the low self-image many Congolese hold of themselves.

Sat Jun 11 19:04:47 PDT 2005

I Hate Chocoholics

It’s not that they like something I’m allergic to. It’s not that I envy them for being able to eat it; as I’ve grown sensitized to chocolate it’s lost its flavor to me. Last time I ate some (probably a decade ago), it tasted like an insipid sugary greasy substance. With a (lack of) flavor like that, I’d find no temptation whatsoever in it even if it didn’t make me sick.

No, the problem is that chocoholics apparently believe (a) everybody shares their passion for chocolate, and (b) if we don’t, then there’s something wrong with us and we need to be brought to our senses.

Case in point is the dessert case at Food Front. Two years ago, there was a good selection of desserts — vegan and non-vegan, chocolate-laden and not. Last year a chocoholic took over management of it. The carob was the first to go — chocoholics hate carob so obviously everyone should. Never mind that the carob desserts tended to fly off the shelves quickly. Evidence matters not when seen in the eyes of the dogmatist.

Now slowly the other non-chocolate items are vanishing, to be replaced with chocolate this, chocolate that, chocolate everywhere. And my complaints about it have fallen on deaf ears (evidence and dogmatism, again). Bah.

Sat Jun 11 20:04:51 PDT 2005

The Fork Not Taken

Alexandra Bridge
Alexandra Bridge. Click to enlarge.

When I go for walks in the West Hills parks, it’s usually Washington Park, for simple reason of proximity. Sometimes I head out to Balch Canyon in Macleay Park or to Leif Erikson Drive or the Aspen Trail in Forest Park.

Today, I wanted to do something a little different. I desired to visit a place where there’s lots of Columbia lilies, but didn’t want to retrace the steps I took there a fortnight ago. I noticed on the map a trailhead near the end of NW Gordon St., which branches off from NW Thurman St. a few blocks from the Leif Erikson trailhead. It offered the twin advantages of a different route while at the same time enabling me to avoid a long stretch on Leif Erikson Drive (which is busy with bicycles and joggers). So I decided to see if I could find it.

Two surprises awaited me. First, the map I was looking at didn’t show it well, but the trailhead actually was from the end of NW Alexandra Ave. about two blocks from the end of Gordon. Second, getting there from Gordon St. involved crossing a spectacular (and completely unexpected, given how minor a street Alexandra is) concrete arch bridge that I never knew existed until today.

The trail was steep, with lots of variety in surfaces: squishy mud, firm soil, coarse sharp gravel, fine sharp gravel, and coarse rounded gravel. A single lily was in bloom, but I’m glad I saw it because I’m going to be away for a fortnight starting Monday. Also had a chance to sample the first of the season’s thimbleberies and red huckleberries.

Sun Jun 12 13:32:36 PDT 2005

A Normal June?

Up until this year, every June since I’ve moved to Portland has been much warmer and drier than any June I remember while living in Seattle in the 1990’s. It’s far more of a difference than one would expect simply on account of being 150 miles further south and 100 miles inland.

Up until this year, I had chalked it up to the rainy season gradually getting shorter as one moves south along the Pacific Coast. This June, however, has been much more like I remember June in Seattle being: definitely a spring month and not a summer month.

Some conversations I’ve had recently with long-timers reveals that the past three Junes were abnormally warm and dry, and this year’s is a return to more normal conditions.

And with that comment, it’s back to packing for my upcoming trip to California. I’ll be taking my laptop along, so will probably post a few updates from there.

Mon Jun 13 09:04:29 PDT 2005

On Closing Gitmo

Briefly, I can’t see what all the fuss is about and I can’t see what it’ll accomplish.

I’m not saying the well-documented human rights abuses there aren’t a problem. They certainly are. But, pay attention now, the proposal is to close Guantánamo, not to change the policies that facilitated the abuses. The shadow-category of “enemy combatant” (with the neither the rights of conventional prisoners nor the rights of prisoners of war) will remain. The policies that place these operations above the law — both domestic and international — will remain. The lack of safeguards will remain.

It’s just that instead of happening at Guantánamo, it’ll all happen somewhere else. Diego Garcia, perhaps, that’s nice and remote and away from any prying eyes. Or maybe somewhere in occupied Iraq or Afghanistan. Or in the middle of a big military reservation in a western state.

Big fucking deal. Oh, I feel so empowered knowing that the government responds to criticism by making sweeping significant changes like this.

Mon Jun 13 09:25:04 PDT 2005

One More Thing

I suspect that all this noise over Gitmo is itself a propaganda measure designed to refocus the debate from the policies that foster prisoner abuse to a debate over whether or not to close a single prison camp.

If not, it’s sure functioning like one.

Mon Jun 13 13:09:26 PDT 2005

An Auspicious Start?

We’ll see soon enough if it proves to be so, but I did beat the stupid “Greyhound grope” in the Portland bus terminal. That’s when, in a mindless exercise of petty fascism, a rent-a-cop rummages through your luggage, groping for contraband.

It has nothing to do with providing actual security. Today, for example, I avoided it simply by arriving before the groping table was erected at the entrance to the passenger gate area. Every one of use who did so might be carrying bags packed with ammonium nitrate and RDX for all anyone knows but weren’t given the slightest glance.

The previous time I traveled from the Portland terminal, I was subjected to the “grope,” but nothing was done to separate “screened” passengers from unscreened ones. Between being searched and boarding the bus, I excused myself to go to the restroom, taking my day bag with me because it had a digital camera and other valuables in it. I could have been going to retrieve a pistol for all they knew; but I wasn’s subject to the slightest scrutiny as a result of my trip to the john.

Other folks might have been brainwashed to the point where they associate authority structures with security, but (to repeat myself), I can’t help but seeing it all as a mindless exercise in petty fascism.

Tue Jun 14 10:55:03 PDT 2005

So Far, So Good

At Mount Shasta City right now. Had a fairly good night camping. My intuition that I should take a stove and something for dinner with me was borne out, as Kwai (my ex) didn't have a functioning stove or much suitable for dinner with him, and it was avoiding a restaurant meal that enabled us to set up camp while it was still light.

Kwai got lost on an after-dinner hike and I stepped on a number of nasty small Jeffrey Pine cones, which have sharp thorns poking out that have the charming habit of breaking off in whatever foot they embed themselves into, so I had a bit of minor surgery to do removing them this morning. But a few thorns now and then are par for the course. Nobody thinks “I got blisters, I'll never wear shoes again,”, yet everyone seems to think that an odd thorn or two is reason enough to totally give up barefooting.

Drove up to the gate across the road this morning (at about the 7,000 foot level) and got to walk barefoot on the snow. Was not surprised to find out that despite it's countercultural pretensions, Mt. Shasta City has its share of footwear fascists in retail establishments. From what I've been able to gather, the most friendly place for bare feet is the Deep South.

The West Coast is highly overrated in this regard. It has a lot of liberal enclaves, but as I've mentioned before, liberals are hardly consistent allies of freedom. Yes, the Red State neofascists that dominate in the Deep South are even worse, but that's as a general overall rule, and there's certainly some areas where the Red Staters are better friends of freedom than the Blue State crowd.

Tue Jun 14 21:49:42 PDT 2005

Well, That’s Over

The first two legs of the trip, that is. Nothing more eventful than an unexpectedly unpleasant trip through the Central Valley caused by a failing air conditioner in Kwai’s car.

One thing that caught my attention is the substandard condition (compared to most other Western states) of most California freeways. Just a few miles south of the state line is a stretch of pavement far shabbier than anything I’ve seen on I-5 in Oregon or Washington. Moreover, the entire road in that stretch is like something out of a time-warp from the Eisenhower era; the opposing lanes are close together and (years after Oregon and Washington installed Jersey barriers on all such stretches), there’s no barrier except lines of yellow paint between them. The shabby stretches keep recurring every so often; bumpy bridge approaches seem the norm rather than the exception in California. Add to that a large number of short on and off-ramps with bad sight lines and exits that still aren’t all numbered (and California is one of the last places to buy into the program of numbering them). Not to mention how few speed limit signs are on California interstates. About the only area where California’s interstates are better than par is the system of emergency call boxes.

But, I’m here and I’m very glad to be closer to the ocean and away from the heat of the Central Valley.

Wed Jun 15 09:28:43 PDT 2005

Stupid Web Form Design Memes

Could someone please tell me how, when requesting address data, it makes any sense at all to have a huge, long list of country names, all addressed alphabetically, so that the 90+% of the customers who live in the USA have to scroll way down towards the end of the list? No, I’m not being chauvinistic here; this is true even in forms for sites that do almost all of their business domestically.

How much trouble would it be to have “United States” listed twice, first up at the top above a horizontal rule, then down in the alphabetic list?

The same observation goes for regional companies. Just tried to order tickets via a web form from a regional, Oregon-based company that uses an alphabetic list of states in their address form. It would have been a minor bit of effort to put Oregon and Washington up top, but of course it wasn’t done.

Mon Jun 20 17:56:11 PDT 2005

Back from the Mountains

Could perhaps say a whole lot but time is limited and moreover I don’t really feel like it right now. Some pictures of the astounding variety of flowers blooming there can be seen here.

Wed Jun 22 21:26:25 PDT 2005

Random Thoughts

I really hate systems administration. That’s hardly news, of course, but it’s been underscored by my (as a special favor to a special someone) work on some Linux servers recently. I just loathe it. No one logical reason; it’s more emotional than logical, grounded in a personal need for more variety in life than doing the same damn thing for fifteen years or more. The only thing that’s keeping me from putting an axe through the system unit is the knowledge that I have train reservations for Sunday and it’ll all be over by then one way or another.

Hippie suburbia (i.e. Santa Cruz and environs) is far more irritating than garden-variety suburbia. Most likely the reason for that is that I think the folks participating in the former really should know better than to be snowed by such a phony and ecologically unsustainable lifestyle. Wasn’t the counterculture supposed to be a reaction against (among other things) conformity and ecological unsustainability? Do you think you’re really offering an alternative vision just because you rape the planet with a vehicle (complete with progressive bumper stickers) made in a social democratic European country and your detached single-family home has tie-dyed curtains and is decorated with Grateful Dead posters?

Gay “culture” has little to offer to me. That’s underscored by how much the personals for gay men are dominated by losers who want nothing but to get their rocks off. Go take a look — the lesbians and the straights usually talk about their interests and what kind of relationships they’re looking for. The gay men usually talk about stimulating their gonads. Hey, I enjoy sex, too. But as part of a deeper intimate relationship with someone. I even find this to be way too true amongst supposed alternatives to the “scene” like the Radical Faeries.

Maybe it’s me, but I also see an assumption amongst queer men that if you don’t immediately show intense interest in getting physical with someone, then you’re not interested in them at all. Hello? Have you considered that maybe I want to get to know you better first before taking it to that level?

My biggest regret about my twenties is that I never really had the vision to see myself making my way in the world without a college degree, and thus let myself get talked into getting one. That’s trapped me in a white-collar world of professionalism I find very restraining. My biggest accomplishment in my twenties was the ability to see myself making my way with a bachelor’s degree and not letting myself get talked into getting an MS. I’d be in even worse shape if I had a higher degree.

Thu Jun 23 16:13:18 PDT 2005

A Cross Reference

Go here. Now.

Fri Jun 24 11:19:20 PDT 2005

Linux: Still a Pain to Install

That’s my opinion after the fourth consecutive day of extreme headaches in getting some Linux servers upgraded. Case in point: both of the distributions I’ve tried attempt to use ACPI right off the bat. No testing, no asking, they just assume it works. Right from the initial boot off the install CD.

That’s caused all my initial attempts at installs to fail (not right away, of course, only after wasting my time and leading me down the garden path a while). At first I assumed it was because I was trying to install on some really old machines, but this morning the problem happened on a box that’s only a year old!

From this, it’s clear that ACPI is a bleeding-edge feature that only a few boxes support. Why they’d make the idiotic assumption to use it by default is beyond me. That decision alone is responsible for Linux having gotten harder and not easier to install over the last five years. And, worse yet, Fedora Core 4 provides no explicit install menu option for disabling ACPI. At least Suse 9.3 does this (though it’s not the default).

My recommendation: unless you’re a systems administrator who loves doing sysadmin work, consider Macintosh OSX Server. At the least, remember that the acpi=off boot option is your friend.

Fri Jun 24 22:56:34 PDT 2005

Upon Some Thought, It Makes Sense

“Why they’d make the idiotic assumption to use [ACPI] by default is beyond me.”

Development of Linux is done by hard-core geeks and is motivated by a personal pride in one’s technical prowess. The positive thing about this is that it creates a technically advanced system that’s free from the distortions imposed by the profit motive. The downside is that the open source model introduces distortions of its own.

In this case, showing off one’s technological sophistication takes a front seat to the usability of the end product as well as the ability to test it realistically. Support for new hardware options is rushed into core distributions early because it gratifies the urge to show off. Worse, since the developers all place a great personal importance on having the latest and greatest hardware, they tend to have systems that support things like ACPI. So they test it, it works OK for them, and a feature that should have been an option ends up becoming semi-mandatory.

Sat Jun 25 13:02:20 PDT 2005

More Linux Annoyances

Enter SELinux.

Security is, in general, a Good Thing. And doubtless the NSA’s modifications worked fine… on the versions of the Linux kernel the NSA developed and tested them on.

On Fedora Core 4, it breaks Apache’s dynamic shared objects. On one box I have, Apache works if I use chcon to tweak the security settings in the Apache Libexec directory… as long as I start Apache by hand and don’t depend on a script in /etc/rc3.d to do it. And, presumably, assuming the moon is in the correct phase, the system unit was assembled under an auspicious astrological sign, and the ambient bogon flux is 34.23874 or less. On the other box I can chcon till I’m blue in the face and it never works, period.

Flaky, flaky, flaky. And enabled by default in the installer.

For the record, a simple edit of /etc/selinux/config makes this particular unwelcome feature go away.

Sat Jun 25 13:28:41 PDT 2005

And Yet Another Annoyance

You’d think that since (a) I told the installer to install the Editors packages, (b) GNU Emacs has existed for years and is one of the two most popular text editors around, (c) as a result, it’s usually taken as a given that Emacs is present on any UNIX or UNIX-like system, and (d) the Installer installs, without prompting, all sorts of bizarre esoteric stuff much less likely to be used than Emacs, that (e) the FC4 Installer would have put Emacs onto those boxes.

Think again.

Thankfully, both me and the person I’m doing this for are vi users. But the logic behind this decision completely escapes me. Perhaps there’s hard-core vi bigots on the distribution committee?

Sun Jun 26 18:34:48 PDT 2005

RIP: Upgrade from Hell

It’s finally all over. Been over for about 24 hours now. To reiterate what I typed a few days ago, it all underscores how much I dislike systems administration work.

In that, it’s served a somewhat useful purpose because I now have definitive evidence that the idea of getting yet another sysadmin job in the hopes I can get an internal transfer to something else just simply won’t work. As a result of hating the work so much, I’ll do a bad job at it, and get dismissed well before I manage to snag a transfer. Which, of course, would be difficult even if I managed to last given the poor reviews I’d be getting for work I wasn’t doing well.

Though even given that, the benefit of learning it wasn’t worth the time, effort, and agony it entailed.

If all goes well, my train north leaves in a few hours. That’s of course a pretty big if when Amtrak is concerned. I’m now hanging out in a coffeehouse in the Mission District and achieving my goal of totally avoiding San Francisco Pride this weekend. I’ve done that particular mob scene enough times for one lifetime.

Tue Jun 28 12:52:37 PDT 2005

Home at Last

The train trip back was made significantly less pleasant by (a) the train getting in to Oakland five hours late and then falling three more hours behind schedule before arriving in Portland, (b) me forgetting my laptop’s power supply and thus having to severely ration use of my machine. The latter was made all the more irritating by my continually thinking of things to write, having the extra time as a result of (a) available, and having funny-looking face of the power plug at the base of my seat leering at me, unusable.

Did get to see the gorge of the Sacramento River in the daylight, which most passengers don’t get to see. That partially made up for it all.

Several passengers were surprised at how long it took to get to the California/Oregon state line. Not I. California is the third largest state in the Union, and its population is heavily weighted to the south. People think of San Francisco and Sacramento as northern California cities, but they’re really in central California, just barely north of the halfway mark. There’s a lot of sparsely-populated land between those cities and the state line.

The further north the train got, the greener it got, and the less the vegetation depended on the exposure of the slope it was on. It was a gradual process until the train approached the top of Willamette Pass and entered a cloud of mist hanging over the summit. Suddenly, the light had a soft glow to it I hadn’t seen in a fortnight, everything was super-green outside, and the pines, firs, spruces, and hemlocks were beaded with droplets of water. It would be hours before the train arrived in Portland, but I was home.

Wed Jun 29 09:10:39 PDT 2005

Why’d They Do That?

Klamath Falls Lift Bridge
Lift bridge near Klamath Falls. Click to enlarge.

That’s what came to mind when I spied the above sight out the train window on Monday. Klamath Falls is hundreds of miles inland and about 4,000 feet above sea level. The Klamath River is your typical dry-side stream; way too small and shallow for boats of any consequence, even if they could navigate the rapids and waterfalls between the ocean and the highlands.

Yet there it is, a lift brigde. Very strange. My only guess is that both Upper and Lower Klamath Lakes once had a significant amount of local barge traffic at one time.

Wed Jun 29 22:29:20 PDT 2005

Well, Du-u-h!

Of course the creep thinks the Iraq War was worth it.

Because, after all, it is worth it… for him and his cronies. It’s kept them in power, and financially enriched them.

And none of them are putting their asses on the line in a combat zone.

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